Witchy Life – The dead of the Great Lakes, remember them.

I thought about it last week, and I realized that I really should start telling you about what it is like in my life. More specifically, I should let you know about some of the weird, wonderful, and witchy things that happen around here on a daily basis. I don’t know how my experiences will compare with someone else’s but that will be shown eventually, I suppose.

As I may have mentioned earlier, I am a necromancer. Some people get alarmed when I say that. They assume that I am playing around in graveyards, desecrating the resting places of the dead, and generally doing gruesome things. That isn’t exactly what happens. Have I done magic involving death? Yes. I have even performed a ritual wherein something was killed for the purpose of the spell. (It was a mosquito, by the way. When I need to do some sort of spell where death is involved, I opt for lifeforms that are generally pests. Most often, it is some insect, like the mosquito. And, no, I don’t do those rituals often.)

Have I done magic in a graveyard? Yes. It was an evocation of a dead man’s spirit for the sake of getting information. Offerings were given and he was paid for his time. (Payment being the cleaning up of his grave site and encouraging others to tend the graveyard.) Most of my time, I am involved with evocation on a case by case basis. Usually, the dead come to me with out much coaxing. I think it is because they get lonely and yearn for contact with the living. If you can hear them, then they’ll show up and talk your ear off, unless you set some boundaries.

I think the most memorable example of an evocation was one that happened on the shores of lake Ontario a little over ten years back. I had gone to the lake with some friends around the time of Samhain. While they were busy marveling at the waves coming up from the brisk breeze, I decided that I was going to call out to the dead who were beneath the waters. I silently asked for one of them to come and tell me what might be done to honor them where they lay.

Honoring the dead is a big thing for me. I have an ancestor shrine where I interact with my ancestors every day. I give them offerings, talk to them about what is going on in life, and generally treat them as members of my family, because they are. This will play into my story, trust me. I had wandered off away from the group a little bit after my call to the dead.

I found myself standing at a spot where there was dead fish, seaweed, and a dead gull. It smelled appropriately awful. I was about to go back to the group when I heard him. He was an older man. His manner of dress put him somewhere in the 19th century as a laborer of some sort. I think he worked on one of the ships that crossed the lake back then. He was dressed for the weather with a heavy sweater and a knitted cap, both dark blue. His pants were a tan color and he was wearing boots. He had grey eyes and a full, bushy black beard.

As he stepped out from behind the outcropping of rock I was near, I was a little surprised. I honestly didn’t expect anything to come from my call. But, as I was making ready to go back to the group I was with, I heard him say, “Wait a minute.” Then he stepped out from behind the rocks and stood in the one clear spot in the middle of all the dead things. “You wanted to see me?” he said, sounding mildly surprised.

I asked him if his rest was peaceful. He shrugged and responded, “Peaceful as it can be. The waters are never still. Old bones lie deep but they get disturbed.” I then asked him what I could do to make his repose and that of his fellows in the lake better, more comforting. I asked him what the living could do to make sure that the dead got their due. He looked genuinely surprised and touched by my question.

He said something about how he had been there for a hundred years (this was in the late 90s) and no one ever spoke to them. He insisted that there was nothing that they needed, that they were as well as they would be. I pressed the issue and after a sigh, he said, very simply, “Remember us. No one remembers us anymore. Lake Erie, they remember the Edmund Fitzgerald, but no one else.” I was going to ask him how he wanted to be remembered but I got distracted by my friends calling to me. When I looked back, he was gone.

Every year in October, I remember him and all the dead of the Great Lakes. I want to do something more for them, but life always gets complicated and I can’t find the time to get up to the lake. Or I run out of candles. Or something else goes sideways and I just don’t have the means to do more than remember them. I think he is the reason why that happens.

He was a very quiet, humble man who died just doing his job. All he really wanted to do was to do his job and live a quiet life. I think the idea of my giving offerings or doing more than simply remembering them strikes him as too frivolous. But, when the autumn storms start to roll across the lakes, I remember them. One of these days, I will get up there again. And I will pour out a bottle of beer for them. Because I’m stubborn and I think he may be willing to share a drink for another conversation.

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